Complexity, Roles, and Expertise

Ron Fisher

Professor of International Peace and Conflict Resolution, School of International Service, American University

Interviewed by Julian Portilla, 2003

This rough transcript provides a text alternative to audio. We apologize for occasional errors and unintelligible sections (which are marked with ???).

Q: Other advice?

A: The other thing I would say is to try and understand the confusion and the complexity that the context of peace building and other terms now provide to the field of conflict resolution. Try to chart way in that where you have a good sense of what you can do, but you also have a good sense of what you cannot do but what you obviously have to do in concert with a lot of other people and a lot of other activities and that's not easy because that clear picture is not available. I really think that is the current challenge and then within that to maintain again the theory, practice, and integrity of the field rather than allowing it to basically be co-opted, compromised, or massaged in ways that take it away from its true base.

Q: Does an intervener have a responsibility to know what else is going on out there in order to act in coordination with other interveners?

A: Yes, very much so. Earlier your comment about whose responsibility is coordination was really an important question that more and more people are raising right now. Obviously it is not easy, it requires a lot of networking and interfacing and so on but in a sense that is part of a code of conduct. There has been some pretty good attempts at codes of conduct that include your usual ethical practice, but also go beyond that to think of your obligations to the parties and the wider context and other people who are active in that context and so on. It is a really big challenge, but I think young people coming in to the field or older people coming new to the field need to really think about this as a professional challenge of immense magnitude not to be taken lightly at all. Even if you come from an existing professional base, which many people do, as a lawyer, psychologist, psychiatrist, social worker, whatever. You then build upon that when you move into the field of conflict resolution or you will ultimately fail or do something that is not good.